A preliminary agreement between the 4,500-member Columbus Education Association and Ohio’s largest public school district was announced early Thursday, ending the strike that began Monday and heavily disrupted the first day of school Wednesday with students learning remotely.
“We are happy to report that we have reached a conceptual agreement with CEA leaders, and our children will return to in-person instruction on Monday,” Board of Education President Jennifer Adair said in a statement. “While the details cannot yet be disclosed, the contract recognizes the Board’s commitment to improving our student outcomes, the essential work of the CEA members, and strengthening our learning environments.”
In a post to its social media pages, the teachers union said the deal was reached at 2:38 a.m., nearly 14 hours after negotiations overseen by federal mediator Joe Trejo were scheduled to begin on Wednesday afternoon.
The post told striking members that they did not need to return to the picket lines, and Amber James of the Ohio Education Association said Thursday afternoon that teachers were back on the payroll.
Union representative Regina Fuentes said teachers would spend Thursday planning before returning to schools Friday to set up for when students return next week. Students will continue online learning through Friday. Schools will resume athletic, band and drill team practices Friday. All other activities are canceled for the week.
Watch: Union representative Regina Fuentes on strike deal
President John Coneglio thanked not just union members but also the community for its support in ending the teachers strike, the district’s first since 1975.
“This deal would not have been possible without the unwavering support of parents, community members, organized labor, and local businesses in Columbus,” he said in a statement. “It was a city-wide effort that allowed CEA to win the schools Columbus students deserve.”
The deal was reached in the first round of negotiations to take place after teachers voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to strike. Board members will meet Friday to review negotiations and complete the contract.
The union is planning a meeting for this weekend to hear the details of and vote on the contract, which the school board would then need to ratify. The major issues in the strike were class sizes, building conditions and the availability of arts and physical education classes, in addition to pay.
Mayor Andrew Ginther commended both sides for “putting our children first.”
“While we all wish a strike could have been avoided, the end result will be a safe and healthy learning environment for our kids, and fair pay for teachers, nurses and all those essential to learning,” Ginther said. “I look forward to welcoming kids back to the classroom!”
On Wednesday, the district conducted classes online using substitutes, and many community agencies opened their doors as a place for students to go as schools remained closed. But several parents indicated they wouldn’t let their students attend, some choosing solidarity with the union.
The district has been providing grab-and-go meals at several locations, which will remain open through Friday.